The opposition is determined to fight the "boycott bill" which will be put to a vote on second and third readings at the Knesset Monday. In a press conference held Monday opposition factions vowed to do everything to prevent the law from passing.
The bill states that any boycott against Israel or any group located within its territory, including Judea and Samaria, will be labeled a civil offense and its initiators will be subject to litigation.
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Boycotters will be susceptible to demands for compensation that far outweighs the damage done to those boycotted, in addition to a prohibition from competing in state tenders.
The Kadima faction decided to vote against the bill. "The bill is a silencing attempt which offends basic rights," MK Shai Hermesh said. "Not every settlement is wrong. But the boycott bill will not protect Israeli farmers, it just adds fuel to the fire."
MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) said: "This Knesset is legislating anti-democratic and racist laws. A boycott is a legitimate and non-violent form of protest. A society that allows a boycott of cottage cheese should allow the right to protest and freedom of expression against settlements."
MK Niztan Horowitz said he was ashamed such a bill was put to a vote in the Israeli legislative body. "The boycott bill is pathetic and embarrassing. It befits anti-democratic regimes. It is dangerous for freedom of expression. It is one-sided and directed at one side of the political spectrum."
Prime Minister Netanyahu and MK Elkin (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Chairman faction chairman Ilan Ghilon compared the law's initiators to Roman emperor Nero who burned Rome down. "The Elkins and Akunises are behaving like Nero and burning this house down. It’s not a Left and Right matter but a battle for the face of the State of Israel."
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) demanded that the vote be canceled. "The law crosses a red line and renders settlements sacred, punishing anyone who challenges this sanctity with a high fine," he said. "The far right insists on breaking new records of anti-democratic legislation."
'We're not trying to silence anyone'
The bill's initiators convened their own press conference on Monday and responded to claims against the bill. Coalition chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin denied that Netanyahu had demanded the vote be postponed. "The prime minister made no such request."
He slammed members of Kadima who were among the original bill's drafters. "The original bill included a criminal clause signed by Kadima members. But following recommendations by the attorney general we 'veganized' it."
MK Yariv Levin accused the opposition of trying to carry out a "legal putsch" to prevent the vote from taking place."
MK Ofir Akunis said the bill was not aimed at silencing anyone. "We do not want to silence anyone and won't tell them what to think about the conflict. They are entitled to think what they like and we shall fight for their right to say what they think but that's a long way from calling for a boycott of Jewish settlements and academic and cultural establishment, and we shall end it tonight."
Earlier on Monday, the Knesset's legal advisor Eyal Yinon said that the bill was borderline illegal. In an opinion sent to MK Yohanan Plesner he noted that the bill "hurts the core of Israel's freedom of political expression." This might suggest that as legal advisor Yinon will not be able to defend the law in the High Court.
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